9th April 2001
Deployment of UK Trident is illegal in peacetime because:
The use of Trident nuclear weapons would be illegal in armed conflict, because the explosive power of each warhead (100 kilotons, equivalent to 8 times that of the weapon which devastated Hiroshima) makes them incapable of use without violating international humanitarian law.
In its 8 July 1996 Advisory Opinion, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded [para 47]: “If the envisaged use of force is itself unlawful, the stated readiness to use it would be a threat prohibited under Article 2, paragraph 4 [of the UN Charter].” The UN Charter is applicable at all times: thus the argument that international humanitarian law only applies in armed conflict is irrelevant with respect to threat of use. It is only applicable to use, when by definition there is a situation of armed conflict.
UK Trident is deployed under a policy of “stated readiness to use”, in order that nuclear deterrence is credible.
By definition, deployment in peacetime fails to meet the ICJ criteria of “an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake”, even if the Trident warheads could be replaced by ones so small that they complied with international humanitarian law.
Nuremberg Principle VI states: “The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law: (a) Crimes against peace: (i) Planning, preparation… of a war… in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”